Review: Third chapter of ‘The Conjuring’ franchise creaks

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Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of married, devoutly Roman Catholic paranormal pros. The last film drew them “into one of their most diabolical cases.” The new one leads to “the most sinister discovery of their career.” (Here’s betting the fourth will be called the most “pernicious” or “baleful.”)

Based on a real-life murder trial, the movie opens with an exorcism of an 8-year-old in southern New England in 1981 that catapults the demon inside the child into the body of a family friend, Arne Johnson, who then later kills his landlord. Charged with murder, Johnson claims demonic possession, one of the first known cases in which that defense is used.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s screenplay — he also co-wrote “The Conjuring 2” — uses that real history and then opens it up to a wider mystery, which may include a missing teenager in another state. The Warrens must find out who is behind it and stop them. “A master Satanist is not an adversary taken lightly,” they are warned.

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Director Michael Chaves has real skill with eeriness but we can also see the patterns: Quiet scenes start ordinarily until an odd occurrence happens — say, a cereal box shakes — then the music gets ominous and the camera gets shaky before the split-second shocking addition of a disturbing figure.

Fans of the franchise get some nice call-backs to Elvis and the demonic doll Anabel, while newcomers and veterans alike may never be able to listen to Blondie’s “Call Me” the same way again.

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